Wednesday, December 31, 2008

red cup infidelity

Red cups; a marketing genius by the evil empire Starbucks. Actually, I would like to hate Starbucks and there 4 dollar cups of legal addictive stimulants but I just have to admit that they got me and I surrendered to the ridiculously overpriced but oh-so fabulous lattes, at least when I had the option of buying one. My brother worked for them and they are actually a pretty giving and socially responsible company that treats their workers well so even though an addiction to the 'bucks may eventually cause you to mortgage your home they are ok in my book. And I miss those red cups, apparently a lot. As long time readers of this blog may know neither Jason or myself ever used to drink coffee until Miss early riser came into our lives. Now sadly we need it to function some days. So all you who are reading this stateside and can run out (probably after you dig your car out from under the snow and put on 12 layers) to your neighborhood friendly Starbucks I am apparently holding animosity towards you, at least that is what my recent dream may suggest. In any case please enjoy a red cup for me before they are gone until next year.

I had a dream, it was only a dream...... Jason called me from town (as he does many days to report an outage of some food item I needed or to tell me why he will be late and many days these sentences begin "Rox, you are not gonna believe what I just saw..."). Back to my dream...he said "Rox, you will not believe it!! They opened at Starbucks in town and I am there now." After explaining to me the location and telling me what he was ordering I was thrilled. Never mind that everyone apparently spoke English and there is no way any American chain would ever open here because safety & quality standards would never be met. None of that mattered or occurred to my asleep self, I commanded him to purchase me a peppermint mocha (apparently in my dream it was not 1,000 degrees like it is everyday and I actually WANTED a hot beverage) and return home quickly. I waited at home, I paced outside trying to explain in Kiswahili to my neighbors what my husband was bringing home. Then I heard the car round the corner and beep the horn. He pulled in with a local friend and they got out of the car; no red cup, notta. I immediately inquired, ok, hollered at him "where is mine?" to which he unapologetically replied "Oh, sorry I forgot to get you one." What followed was nothing short of a marriage crisis.

I awoke and immediately relayed this dream to Jason who responded by asking me if I really think he is a horrible person. I said of course not but then the memory came rushing back. The memory that may have triggered this dream. The memory of his red cup infidelity.

Every year we would wait in anticipation for the appearance of the red cups at Starbucks and we always promised each other once they emerged we would walk down to our Roger's Park store and share our first red cups of the season together. It was sort of a tradition, however pathetic; an ushering in of the Christmas season if you will. Well, last year I remember the very day they debuted. I was carrying Anni to tumbling class and saw one, two, no twelve Mamas walking along with red cup in hand. I knew that I had to show self control and wait for Jason and even after a rough morning with Annikah I still remained true to our pact. He arrived home and we picked him up from the Metra as usual and announced with excitement "tis the season for red cups." He responded "yeah, I know." But it was not a simple acknowledgment, it was as if he was hiding something, something terrible. I inquired more as to the source of his new knowledge and he finally came with the news that he had enjoyed one at work with friends without me. Now, I think there was some justification involved like someone brought him one or they all went together and someone treated but to me it was pure red cup infidelity. After some apologies and negotiations of me being allowed to buy 2 whatever day I wanted that week we had a good laugh about the situation. So after being reminded of that story I realized that is where my dream must have come from, of all the important issues in life my subconscious is holding onto that memory. Poor Jason, I hold onto to everything. He proved his undying coffee loyalty to me again last week by treating me to a coffee in town before we picked up Annikah from school as an early Christmas treat. I'll keep you posted if a Starbucks opens here, somehow I doubt it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

christmas festivities

We celebrated our first Christmas outside the states this year. In a way we were really looking forward to it and at times we were dreading it knowing that we were guaranteed to feel homesick. We kept really busy over the last week and it turned out to be an awesome time for our family. We kicked off the week with Annikah's school Christmas party. Her new teacher from South Africa (that replaced me in November) planned a party for the kids complete with cake and some poor guy wearing a Santa (or as most ex-pats here say Father Christmas) suit in 90 degree heat. He arrived to give each child a gift and just as last year Annikah was completely horrified by him (as were about half the kids in her class). So even though Santa still sucks to Miss A she did enjoy her gift and kept saying "Mama, Santa bring that but me no like Santa." She was a bit conflicted; scary weird dude in a crazy get up brought me a sweet present, life is rough when you are 2.

"maybe this Santa guy is alright. He did bring me a gift"

"nope, I still think he is way sketchy. Save me Mama!"

Anni & Fahad enjoy some sugar
I show off the picture frame Annikah made us

Anni gave all the helpers gifts

Anni with her fav helper, Mama Thresa

Anni's school party was a blast!
Anni with her teacher

We also got to attend a local church service in English with Christmas carols a couple days before Christmas. This was a real treat and even though the church was crazy hot we enjoyed singing (even though the songs were mostly the British tune or version so my loud-off key self would start singing the wrong version with gusto). We also got to take a look at the organ after the service which was amazing as the church is a colonial remnant and reeks of history so it was amazing to explore the building a bit which I also got to do when looking for an appropriate place for Annikah to pee in the pitch black, ahhhh a story for another time.
going to church with friends
no white Christmas but we did get to go swimming on Christmas day!!
the girls after helping Annikah paint her very own bandanna

We had a fabulous time visiting with friends that are now living in Kenya. They came out to Africa the same time we did and we all attended training together. They are now are working at a school and hospital up in Kenya and came our way for a family vacation. We had them over for a couple meals, a game night, and did our best to recommend fun things to do around here. They also let us join them at their hotel pool for a few days and since Annikah absolutely adores their 4 kids it was great to spend time together. That is right; we went swimming outside on Christmas day!
On Christmas Eve and day we got to Skype with family and friends and even open gifts via the webcam. Of course, we wished we could have been together in person but the blessing of technology was awesome as it made the distance seem not as far. Annikah got way too many gifts from the generous packages we were sent (thanks so much everyone!) including her favorites: talking Elmo, play dough, and a pretty pony. She also enjoyed giving out candy canes on Christmas day in our neighborhood and wishing everyone a "Krismasi njema." We made a nice Christmas dinner and enjoyed some tastes of home, at least as close to home as we could make here. Of course we made our traditional birthday cake for Jesus although with all the interruptions; power cuts, people stopping over, and visiting others,etc. it took 3 days to complete and decorate. Annikah was very proud of her creation and enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. She was sure to point out "Me make that cake for Jesus but Annikah eat that." True Christmas spirit :) The day after Christmas we had a team BBQ (they put squid and duck on the grill :) luckily there was also some beef) and gift exchange. We also got a chance to better know one another with slide shows and videos of our "previous lives." It was awesome to share more of our personal lives with our team mates here. Here are some pictures and a couple short videos of our Krismasi adventures. I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas celebrating the gifts we have that cannot be wrapped or placed under any tree!

Anni & her new bud Elmo!
Anni & her new pony or as she calls it farasi (Kiswahili for horse)

the men & the meat at our team BBQ
the ladies of our team
Christmas dinner

dress a friend here gave me for Krismasi

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

a matter of perspective

A lot of life is about your perspective. This is simple enough. Like if you always expect everything to be easy then you are devastated when something does not go your way. Or if you trust everyone you can be destroyed when someone is a complete jerk. But I think there is more to it than that.

I am learning more than anything else at the moment that most of my emotional and spiritual existence is governed by my perspective, by how I see the world around me, and by what I believe about what I take in. Especially since this particular corner of the world is vastly different than the one I am used to existing in.

Last week a friend here took my to visit a house of her "sister" (not sure if they are really blood related as everyone seems to say sister and brother very freely which as you can guess makes it very difficult to know who is related). Annikah and I were welcomed in to a tiny one room brick and mud home. The small space seemed almost oppressively hot and cramped to me and I immediately began to think "how could someone actually live here?" Three rope beds were placed strategically in the room so they just fit and there was one small table that held food, cooking utensils, some baby powder, and a few small bowls. The family cooked everything outside as most people do and she showed us around her kitchen area where she must spend countless hours sitting on a small stool cooking in the heat covered only by a thin straw roof. We then went on a tour of her small shamba (or garden) where she grows some veggies (mostly local things I have never heard of). We then went back and sat on a mat on the floor and talked; mostly they talked and asked me questions which I tried my best to respond with the Kiswahili I know. She offered me some fruit off a tree and some water from a dirty plastic jug in the corner. As I drank and said a prayer that the water would not make me sick I suddenly was struck with the arrogance in which I see the world. My first thought was that she was so poor, in need of pity, but compared to who? How often does Jesus talk of the poor in spirit versus the poor in terms of worldly goods? How often does he speak of the danger in loving things or worshipping money or possessions over Him and over loving others? And just how often do I get this totally wrong? I thought about how if I was home in Chicago and someone stopped by unexpectedly with friends would I have been as welcoming? Would I have had "more important things" to do? Would I have shared and freely offered out of my wealth as this woman was offering out of her comparative poverty? In some ways my life at home was so scheduled that I must have missed out on countless opportunities like this one. I never noticed or even missed them because the world was always spinning around me at the same speed. Here I have had to learn to just sit, to just listen, to be the one who knows nothing, and to be the learner more than the teacher. It is humbling, it is difficult, it is what I needed and He knew it.

After about an hour of visiting, picking veggies, and the kids running around together shoeless through the field we began to leave. Leaving is a process: you say goodbye to everyone individually, you wish peace on them and their families, and you thank them for their hospitality. The women also gathered some gifts to give me as I left, some tea leaves and veggies she grows. This gift was nothing I desired, nor even knew what to do with but it was so precious to me. My perspective shifted and it has on many things.

I no longer take for granted the immense and amazing opportunities for education I have had in my life. And although I cannot type a blog post without the aid of spell check to save my life I have been taught how to read and express my feelings through writing. And at my core I believe that however; at times irrational and governed by emotions my thoughts are, they deserve to be heard and that I, as a woman, have a voice. These are gifts that should be savoured, treasured. Some days I practice reading Kiswahili outside our house and when some of my neighbors overhear they listen intently and watch over my shoulder almost in awe of my ability to make sense of the words written on the page. Another experience changed my perspective on just how many things I have to be grateful for. A few weeks back we were going to be out all day ona day we expected the milk to be delieverd. We decided to leave our door open and ask Mama to place the milk in the fridge when it arrived (since if left out in the heat it usually goes bad). When we arrived home she announced that it had indeed arrived and that she placed it in the fridge. We unpacked and I decided I should boil the milk before we got ready for bed so I opened the fridge, but no milk, notta. I thought this was obviously bizarre and searched around a bit. I knew we had understood each other since the word for fridge is frige there was no room for a miscommunication. Finally, I noticed the worn water bottle full of milk peering at me from inside the oven. She thought the oven was the fridge. In that moment I realized she had never seen a fridge or a stove before and I was shocked, this could not be but in reality it was. But before I tell these stories that one could chalk up to the paternalistic and tragic "poor, simple African, & rich all knowing Westerner" mentality let me be clear that is not at all the story I tell.

Not at all.

If anything I have learned that many perceived needs I have in my life at times complicate my existence and compromise my joy rather than add to it. I "need" a fridge so when there is no power for days it eats away at me. So many days I get worn down by stuff that really means nothing, minor annoyances that are not why I was made, not why I am here, not what life is about. I also have learned so much about family, about appreciating the earth, about honesty, about selfless sharing and giving, about welcoming people from my neighbors and friends here. But if my perspective does not shift or open to encompass the new things I am learning I am the one who is truly poor.

I know that in part my perspective on life has always been to worry about what is next. It is almost as if worrying comforts me in some ways. Planning for the future is great, letting worry overtake your days eats away at your joy, there is a fine line. I could be worried about how we will ever save enough money for Annikah to have the same educational opportunities we did, I could worry about the health issues in living here, I could worry about friends and family going through tough times so far away, I could worry about how we can afford to live here, I could worry about what our future family will look like, I can worry that every thing I do is misunderstood culturally, I can worry that the plans for the school are traveling at a snail's pace or I can refuse to be bound by worry. Too often I chose to fret but I am learning that the solution to worrying is not to try not to worry but to seek first, it is matter of devotion. To what or who am I devoted? Do I really trust and know in my gut that He is always in control? And do I have the courage to live like I believe that everyday? It is a matter of actually seeing and I am seeing my life in new way, at least in small steps.

I am so grateful God brought me here to teach me how life is more than carving out a comfortable place for me and my family. There are so many people with whom I share this planet and although we live differently outwardly, we all have the same felt needs; acceptance, love, security. Yet we are all fallen and in process. All of creation is not perfected and He designed our world this way, it was not some cosmic mistake. I ran across this quote recently that I recorded in my journal and although I cannot remember where I read it today it spoke to me..
"When God made the earth, he could have finished it. But He didn't. He left it as raw material- to tease us, to tantalize us, to set us thinking and experimenting, and risking, and adventuring. And therein we find our supreme interest in living. He gave us the challenge of raw materials, not the satisfaction of perfect, finished things. He left music unsung and dramas unplayed. He left poetry undreamed, in order that men and women might become not bored but engaged in stimulating, exciting, creative activities that keep them thinking, working, experimenting and experiencing all the joys and durable satisfactions of achievement"

Do I accept the challenges in my life as raw material to carve out my purpose? Do I engage in artistic expression? Do I risk, adventure, and dare to grow? Do I allow Him to shape me for His purposes? Even the birth of Christ is a matter of perspective. For many trading the heavenly realms to come to the fallen earth as a helpless baby is obvious proof that Jesus was not divine.

But that depends of your perspective. Whether you believe only what you see as reality or if you acknowledge the impossible is possible with God. The earth did not recognize Him, even when he came. It was foretold this way, we humans missed it. I am so often reminded how often I expect God to work my way and how I should know better because He never does. And thank God He has a better way. Thank God the smallness of what I see is not all there is.

No matter how you define it the human dilemma exists. And God's definitive answer was a crisis pregnancy. A tiny baby born in a remote part of the world that would mean salvation for all. It was intensely and intimately personal. This is what Christmas is about for me this year.

I think it is amazing that when God looked down on His creation He decided that although the problems were immense the solution was not, that the core of the human paradox is that what really matters in this life is personal. The problems I face and the collective issues we face as a nation, a people, a human race; poverty, fear, hate, racism, greed, selfishness, cruelty, to name a few. How do I handle these issues? How do I look at the vastness of the unfinished business around me? These are problems that require a personal answer. No company can program selfishness or hate or evil out of man's hearts. A political leader cannot veto it. A country cannot require specifications and qualifications for love. It is only when God fills me and you with His love that we find the power to change, only when He gets involved in my mess that I can grow and my perspective is reborn.

Yes, it is about perspective. I see annoyances and He sees lessons is patience and opportunities to show kindness. I see wasted opportunity and He sees amazing potential. I see insurmountable problems and suffering and He sees that ability for redemption, I see hopelessness and He sees individuals He created and loves.

Loving God and loving people is at the core of life, everything else is negotiable.
It is all a matter of perspective. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Krismasi party

baking marathon before the party...I baked, Anni sampled
Anni & I dressed for the party!
(I had that skirt & top made here by a local fundi)

Saturday was our sherehe ya Krismasi (Christmas Party) that our team planned together for our local friends here. We wanted to show hospitality and also share with them some our our cultural and why we celebrate Christmas. It was a ton of work but well worth it, especially to thank the friends we have made here that have been so generous in helping us learn the culture and language. After a long week and an even longer day Saturday we arrived home and just about collapsed but we so excited that we were able to show some friends here how much we appreciate their friendship, kindness, and generosity to us since arriving here.
We had the party outside and set up mats for our friends to sit on and chairs for the Wazee (older people) as respect in very important aspect of the culture here; the older people sit on chairs, eat first, etc. The whole planning process was difficult as we were constantly trying to negotiate the line between wanting to be culturally appropriate and respectful and also sharing our culture as well; it was tough!! Luckily, we had some local friends that speak English to ask the tough questions. In the end all we could do was pray that our intentions were seen even if we made cultural blunders. The only apparent flop we detected was after we had gone around with water and bowls to let everyone wash their hands and served the food we went around again with clean water to allow people to wash their hands again (my hands needed it) and we got a few weird looks so we quickly stopped. Not too bad for a bunch of Wazungus.
Jason was the MC for the event and did everything in Kiswahili (he prepared and wrote down some of what he wanted to say). I think he did great and our friends responded kindly as we were all trying our best to speak Kiswahili. I was in charge of kid's games and taught the kids red light, green light and duck-duck-goose (only I called it kuku-kuku-jugo (chicken chicken, rooster in Kiswahili). After a few rounds all the kids caught on (except Annikah who kept running toward me no matter if the light was green or red :) I also came armed with stickers, bubbles, and candy which always makes for happy kiddies. Our team mate Alex also juggled and made balloon animals for the kids which was great! He is really good and rumor has it he even knows how to ride a unicycle (which unfortunately he does not have here...maybe next party).
After we all ate our team leader told a bit about why we celebrate Christmas, why we give gifts, and then we handed out small gifts to everyone (some local peanut brittle called kashata and candy wrapped in newspaper and tied with ribbon. We had tons of extra food so we sent everyone home with a bag-o-food to share with their family.

At the end of the night I was driving tons of people home (our 4, maybe 5 seater car at one point had 9 people in it) and when we finally had dropped off the last person Anni said "me no want to go home Mama, more party." We, on the other hand were completely exhausted and quickly headed home for a much needed shower and some rest. It was a blessing to us to share Krismasi with local friends here, and although we desperately miss family and friends back home we will never forget celebrating Christmas this year.

We were so excited so many friends came!

Anni LOVES her friends here!
our attempt at decorating...hey we made do with what we had :)

the food spread......chapatis, sambusa, pilau, lots of baked goodies

Friday, December 19, 2008

a new look

Annikah and I both got a new look this week. Annikah got her ears pierced and I got some henna. I think my henna was more painful.
Since arriving here most people have mistaken Annikah for a boy because she does not have earrings. Seriously, all little girls here wear dresses everyday and have their ears pierced at around 3-6months. After numerous people asking and asking why she did not have her ears pierced I think she started wondering as well. She would ask me "mama, want to have earrings too." I started looking around to see if there was a safe place that we could get her ears pierced. I would have waited if we were stateside but we figured if she wants to fit in who are we to say no? As long as I could find a safe and clean place and we made sure to explain numerous times that if she got them pierced it would hurt for a little bit. She would hold her ears and say "that hurt" so we thought she understands. I finally got a recommendation for a jeweler that had prepackaged sterilized studs and a piercing gun. Annikah and I took a Dala Dala ride into town and searched out the place. Once there she picked out her pair of studs; gold plated ones with a cubic zirconia in the center saying "Anni like that, that pretty." Once the man with the gun came near she was beginning to feel the pressure. When he marked the dots on her ears she flinched waiting for the hurt part. After one stud was in she was in tears but he quickly did the second one and with the promise of fruit snacks she stopped crying in about 30 seconds. The jeweler said she did better that most kids here (I totally attribute that to fruit snacks bribery). As we walked through town every time there was a window she wanted to stop and look at her new earrings. It was pretty adorable. Jason picked us up in town and she showed him her earrings and told the epic tale "Anni has earring but that hurt papa." She also wanted to show off her earrings to everyone in our neighborhood once we arrived home and the crazy thing is people noticed right away, even people we did not know commented that Annikah had hereni (earrings). We cannot believe what a big girl she is with her earrings. Jason said "no more things that make my baby look big." Needless to say, Annikah is very pleased with her new look.

picking out the studs
30 seconds after the dreaded gun.....
fruit snacks in hand save the day!
showing off her new look

My new look is temporary but I think arguably more painful that Miss A's new holes in her head. When I invited my shoga (girlfriend) to our Christmas party she insisted that I needed to get henna for the celebration and for Krismasi. She called a friends and "made an appointment" for Friday and said she would come to get me around 9am and we would take the Dala Dala to a house and both get henna done to celebrate Christmas. She actually showed up around 8am and I was still in shorts (gasp!) from doing Taebo so I had to quick jump in the shower, get Anni ready for school, and we headed off. The house was not far away and once we arrived there was discussion about many things, from what I understood; we came too early, there was a wedding later that day so many people were coming for henna, and either a chicken or someone with a name similar to chicken was sick. We then moved to the kitchen floor and one of the women started doing henna on my feet first. There were probably about 6-10 other women in and out, collecting water, taking care of kids, and getting henna as well as us. Women everywhere are masters of multitasking, the women doing my henna was breastfeeding her son, doing henna, talking on the phone and making chai; seriously amazing! The craziest part about the process was that it was much more intricate than the first time I had henna done and took about 5 hours!! I actually had to leave for a team meeting and wobble home with some henna still drying. My back is still recovering, beauty is painful! I was lying, sitting, standing, and squatting in the most bizarre positions (of course wearing a skirt.....will the stupid Mzungu moments ever cease? ). My favorite was lying on my stomach with both hands in the air (to let the henna dry) and both feet up while they were finishing painting the inside of the outlines on the bottom of my feet for about 40 minutes......add that scene to the list of things I never could imagine I would be doing. I must admit the results are pretty beautiful and everywhere I go people notice and ask why I have the henna so it is awesome to share that I am celebrating Krismasi! So Annikah & I both have new looks just in time for our party today & Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"asante sana Jesus"

After posting about Annikah's dear shoga leaving it was so sweet how many people asked how she is doing. Actually remarkable well considering they were inseparable for the past 3 months. She still has many days when she runs outside only to remember Mgoray is no longer here or she tells us "Mama, Papa, me want Mgoray come back." We continued to ask Jesus every night when we prayed to help her find new friends and He did! The very week her best friend left she had 3 girls stop over to play. We also got to go to the skuku with some kids from the neighborhood as well. One little girl has come over several times and Annikah loves when she hears her voice. She runs and finds her shoes and says "Mama, me need to play with new friend." A few nights ago when I was asking her at bedtime what she wanted to pray about she said "Mama, me want to say asante sana to Jesus for new friends." That was an easy prayer that I echoed in my heart. I am reminded as Christmas approaches that He cares so much about our humanness that he came to sacrifice, to love us in our weakness, and know what we feel. Today, we grateful for new friends around here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The last night of the Eid festival we went with a family from our neighborhood. It was great to hang out with them for the night. After grabbing some festival food (read here more meat on a stick) and hanging out on our mat they wanted to look for toys at the numerous vendors (as a side note there is no Kiswahili word for toys, they just say "things of play"). Walking through row after row of plastic junk strung from wooden stakes we finally spotted him, in a pile of used toys on a table, barely visible to the untrained eye; Woody! Annikah had just watched Toy Story for the first time a few weeks back because it was on one of the bootleg "40 movies on one DVD" that we brought when we were in Nairobi and she loved it!!! Seriously, she never has really sat through any movie before but she loved Toy Story, she laughed out loud at the toys and their crazy antics and she teared up a bit when Woody and Buzz could not get home to Andy and the mama. It was hilarious and although we do not let her watch many movies I was secretly stoked because if I ever really need a "electronic babysitter" I now know I can call on Buzz and Woody to save the day, at least while it lasts (hey judge all you want). Ok, back to the story of Woody.

Jason was the first to spot him and soon after he did Miss Annikah started pointing and gleefully declaring "Woody, papa, that is Woody." He even had his hat, a marvel of used toy shopping as if you paid me 100 dollars I still could not find all the pieces to the various toys strewn about our house. We took a look at him and upon first glance in the dark he seemed to be a bit dirty, a little war torn but overall in good shape including the string that you pull in great working order and the best part was they only wanted 2,000 shillings for him (about $1.70). Annikah did not whine or fuss at all about getting him but only said "please papa" (do not think our girl does not have her moments but we have been working a lot on how we ask for things and understanding that sometimes the answer is no before the question even leaves her lips so we were glad she had such a great attitude). We could not pass it up and happily made Annikah's day by taking Woody home. On the car ride home Annikah said to me "Mama, hamna (none in Kiswahili) hand, oh no, Papa need to fix that" and once I took a detailed look I realized that Woody was indeed handless on one arm and missing four of his fingers on the other hand. So much for our keen observation skills! We explained that we could not fix it but that Woody was still fun to play with and Anni agreed after telling Woody "pole sana Woody (sorry for you Woody)." Upon arriving home I scrubbed Woody from head to toe and Papa fixed a slight problem with his batteries (he would not shut up).

Annikah and Woody have been inseparable for about a week now. She even got to watch Toy Story 2 with him this week and since the movie was about Woody's arm ripping we thought it was quite fitting that Annikah sat watching the story unfold clutching her battered but much loved Woody.

right after we found Woody

redefining a need

said by Annikah today while walking to the post office,

"Mama, me wanna stop now and pick a flower"

"Why do you want to pick one?" I asked

Anni replied with certainty "because me really need that for Annikah's hair."

I cannot argue with that logic.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The resourcefulness of the people here is pretty amazing. Before we lived in Africa I would have considered myself someone who tried to do what I could to reuse and recycle things (at least when my laziness did not get the best of me) but I now realize just how many things I threw away that here would be re purposed. We just lived more sterile back home and whether one desires to live closer to the earth or not you do here. Dirt and grime are inevitable and the more you fight them the more it can weigh on you. It is just daily reality. The result is a new appreciation in me for reusing everything possible and a way more laid back attitude about everything being dirty. Here you never throw paper away because it can be used to start fire, any container can be washed and reused, plastic bags are gold, and even emptied coconut shells are made into ladles.
Here are some examples of the resourcefulness I have spotted:
fabric scraps from the sewing dukas are used to make rugs

old cans are used to make kerosene lamps,

any container makes a great seed starter for the bustani (garden) dried banana tree can be cut into local kamba (rope)

more and more of the "use what you got" mentality is rubbing off on us city slickers from Chicago, as proof we had a guest that has lived here all of his life stay with us a few weeks back and during his visit one of the burner dials on our stove broke. While Jason and he tried to diagnose the problem our friend asked for some gum, chewed it up, and stuck it inside the dial "fixing" it. So far, so good. No complaints here.